Today those of us who are reading some Christian classics together are going to be looking at the second chapter of A.W. Pink’s The Seven Sayings of the Saviour on the Cross. You can read more about this effort here: Reading the Classics Together. Two weeks ago we began our eight-week study of this book by looking at the Introduction to the book and last week we read the first chapter which dealt with Jesus’ “word of forgiveness.” This week we move on to the book’s second chapter.
Jesus’ second saying on the cross is the word of salvation. To the thief who hung beside Him, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
The chapter follows this outline:
- Here we see a representative sinner.
- Here we see that man has to come to the end of himself before he can be saved.
- Here we see the meaning of repentance and faith.
- Here we see a marvelous case of spiritual illumination.
- Here we see the Saviourhood of Christ.
- Here we see the destination of the saved at death.
- Here we see the longing of the Saviour for fellowship.
There was a lot to take from this chapter (both because of its length and its depth). I will point to just a couple of items that stood out to me.
In the first place, I enjoyed Pink’s discussion of how a man must come to the end of himself before he can come to God. “Before any sinner can be saved he must come to the place of realized weakness.” As sinful humans we tend to rely on our own strength as long as we can, only giving up and learning dependence upon God as a final measure. We do this in salvation and continue to do it through the process of sanctification. So often God does not really begin His work in us until we have first exhausted all of our own methods. And so it was with this man. “He could not walk in the paths of righteousness for there was a nail through either foot. He could not perform any good works for there was a nail through either hand. He could not turn over anew leaf and live a better life for he was dying.” And here is where Pink makes a profound application. “Those hands of yours which are so ready for self-righteous acting, and those feet of yours which are so swift to run in the way of legal obedience, must be nailed to the cross. The sinner has to be cut off from his own workings and be made willing to be saved by Christ.” And once he has been saved, that same sinner must continue to be cut off from his own workings if he wishes to be sanctified and wished to grow in grace. It is a lifelong challenge to let go of ourselves and to depend on Christ.
Further on in the chapter I found this challenge. It is something I have thought about often and something I struggle with more then I’d care to admit.
That which makes heaven superlatively attractive to the heart of the saint is not that heaven is a place where we shall be delivered from all sorrow and suffering, nor is it that heaven is the place where we shall meet again those we loved in the Lord, nor is it that heaven is the place of golden streets and pearly gates and jasper walls – no, blessed as those things are, heaven without Christ would not be heaven. It is Christ the heart of the believer longs for and pants after – “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee” (Psalm 73:25). And the most amazing thing is that heaven will not be heaven to Christ in the highest sense until his redeemed are gathered around him. It is his saints that his heart longs for. To come again and “receive us unto himself” is the joyous expectation set before him. Not until he sees of the travail of his soul will he be fully satisfied.
This reminds me of John Piper’s words from God is the Gospel: “The critical question for our generation—and for every generation—is this: If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever say, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ was not there?” Too many Christians look to heaven for its benefits to us without understanding that the greatest benefit of all will the presence of Christ. We can long after all the good of heaven without feeling any desire to enjoy its greatest Good. And what a tragedy it is if we focus our attention and our affections on lesser treasures. To be absent from the body is to be present not with grandma or mom or dad, but first and foremost to be present with Christ. This promise should quicken our hearts and be at the forefront of our desires as we long for eternity.
And one more quick passage that caught my attention. In discussing the thief on the cross beside Christ Pink says something that stirred my heart with gratitude for so great a Savior. This thief “was an outcast from society – who would remember him! The public would think no more of him. His friends would be glad to forget him as having disgraced his family. But there is one with whom he ventures to lodge this petition – ‘Lord, remember me’.” When everyone else reviled this man, Christ still heard Him and gave Him the greatest gift. What a Savior!
Parenthetically, am I the only one who thinks Pink may rely on italics just a little bit too much? There were some portions of the chapter, particularly near the beginning, where it seems he went just a little bit crazy and it almost made it difficult to read. A small complaint, to be sure…
We will continue next Thursday with the third chapter of the book and look at Jesus’ word of affection.
I am eager to know what you gained from this chapter. Feel free to post comments below or to write about this on your own blog (and then post a comment linking us to your thoughts). Do not feel that you can only say anything if you are going to say something that will wow us all. Just add a comment with some of the things you gained from the this week’s reading.